Wait for Silver Line Phase II tests patience of local businesses seeking boost from Metro

Paul Olsen opened a second location of Weird Brothers Coffee at Worldgate Metro Plaza in October 2019.

The shopping center on Worldgate Drive was specifically marketed and named in anticipation of the Herndon Metro Station opening less than a quarter of a mile away as part of the Silver Line’s second phase.

Two years later, the Herndon station and the other Silver Line Phase II stops still won’t be operational for at least another eight months.

“At the time, we weren’t even considering expansion,” Olsen tells Reston Now. “We saw the Metro and…figured this is a great situation. But, then, obviously things changed. COVID hit a few months later. Then, we saw more Metro line delays.”

Weird Brothers Coffee on Worldgate Boulevard in Herndon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Olsen’s situation isn’t unique. Many businesses specifically set up shop near a future Silver Line Phase II Metro station thinking it would provide a boost, only for Metro’s opening to be continuously delayed.

“We initially thought that the Metro would open, at the latest, early 2020,” said Don Lee, co-owner of Alo Vietnam Restaurant in Herndon.

The restaurant is about a five-minute walk from the not-yet-opened Innovation Center Metro station. Alo Vietnam is also expected to start a location in Reston at Faraday Park.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

Seven years ago this July, the most expensive transportation project in the D.C. region’s history began operations. The opening of the Silver Line and its five new stops brought Metro into Tysons and up to the Wiehle-Reston East station.

However, the intention was always to extend the transit system further into D.C.’s growing Northern Virginia suburbs. Construction on five additional stations, including one at Reston Town Center and two in Herndon, began even before Phase I opened and originally had a completion date of 2018.

However, issues proliferated, from design changes and defective panels to flawed rail ties and bad concrete. Soon, the opening got pushed to early 2020, but the problems kept coming and coming.

The Reston Town Center Metro station under construction (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Then, a pandemic upended the promise of a mid to late 2020 opening. The project got pushed to summer 2021 and, again, to late 2021.

As of last month, Metro officials are now hoping to start operations in the first quarter of 2022 — nearly four years after the initial target date.

Jeremy Ross has been disappointed by highly anticipated development projects before.

He’s co-owner of Tiki Thai at Reston Town Center West, which is across the street from the Reston Town Center Metro station. Prior to signing the lease for a second location, his focus was on his other restaurant Sense of Thai Street at One Loudoun in Ashburn.

Initially, a sports stadium was supposed to be built there. But that deal fell apart, and a stadium ended up being constructed about 10 miles away.

“I’ve been let down before in the past with the future plans,” Ross said. “You just learn how to work around it.”

Tiki Thai at Reston Town Center West (courtesy Tiki Thai)

That’s the attitude he has about the Silver Line Phase II project. In early 2019, he signed the lease for Tiki Thai in Reston. The developer made Metro’s imminent opening a huge selling point.

While COVID-related challenges delayed the opening of his cocktail-oriented bar and restaurant from March to December 2020, he says business is going well and growing steadily, even without Metro.

“We know that there’s room to grow,” Ross said. “It’s been a long wait…but everyone is anticipating and it will only add to [our business].

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also puts a positive spin on the delays by highlighting the future.

“It’s definitely taking a lot longer than anyone had anticipated,” Alcorn tells Reston Now. “But the future growth of Reston is targeted around these Metro stations.”

Alo Vietnam in Herndon near Innovation Center Metro Station (courtesy Don Lee)

Alcorn notes that development around Reston Town Center Metro is still in its early stages. For businesses like Tiki Thai that came in early, he believes there will soon to be a pay off.

“It’s certainly late for a lot of folks, but this is going to be worthwhile to those that have stuck it out,” Alcorn said.

But that hoped-for future is not exactly a consolation for the businesses that need to survive now, navigating not only the Metro delays, but COVID-19 as well.

Olsen says Weird Brothers Coffee’s business dropped by about 90% at the Worldgate location in 2020. While the Sunset Park Drive location has been “carrying the business,” he says, he does not seem optimistic for the one at Worldgate.

For one, the shop is located in an office building, and it remains unclear when those office workers will be back in force. As for the Metro station, the delays have pushed expected development even further down the road.

“We’re also looking at all of the planned development that was supposed to go in and around the Metro, which would bring in more businesses and people,” says Olsen. “But none of that is happening yet. It’s completely stagnant.”

Lee says Alo Vietnam isn’t doing great either, thanks to the double hit from Metro delays and COVID. But he’s looking to the future, one that he’s hoping is sooner than later.

“The long wait is coming to an end soon. We know we’re very close. We’re optimistic,” Lee said, adding that he plans to open restaurants near all the Silver Line Phase II Metro stations. “We think our future is very bright.”

Alcorn is hopeful that Silver Line Phase II will finally begin operations early next year.

“You know, just in my year and a half in office, it’s been delayed, I think, two or three times,” says Alcorn. “So, I keep my fingers crossed.”

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